How not to race a 10K: Lessons learned from the Wayfarer’s 10K in Annapolis

I ran the Wayfarer’s 10K race in Annapolis this morning, and it was a tactical disaster from start to finish.

No exaggeration. My race today was the textbook example of how NOT to race a 10K — or, well, most race distances. Like, it could appear in a manual for new runners as a warning for what can happen when you blow off conventional racing wisdom and go out balls to the wall at a pace that is completely inappropriate for the conditions.

I’ve said it many times before, but I think my biggest weakness as a runner is that I am awful at pacing myself. I get so excited at the start of races and it’s really hard for me to hold back. I think I’ve gotten the hang of marathon pacing, but other distances? It’s still a crap shoot, especially if the weather sucks or the course is difficult or I am sore from a tough workout.

Someday, I will learn. In the meantime, I hope you all take something away from my experience!

A half marathon that became a 10K

So I had actually signed up for the Wayfarer’s Half, which would have been my 16th half marathon. I was really looking forward to it, and was very disappointed when I got an email from the race organizers Friday saying the half had been canceled due to thunderstorms in the forecast. (It never stormed, though. 😦 ) They said all the half marathoners were downgraded to the 10K and could choose to defer to next year if they wished … or we could run the 10K and get half off our registration fee for next year’s race. I decided to run the 10K — no idea if I will sign up for next year or not. (Sometimes I barely know what I am doing next week!)

The race kicked off promptly at 7 am, and it was already over 70 degrees and very humid. Humidity is typical for Maryland in the summer months — it gets downright swampy here — but we had such a long and cold spring that I, for one, am not acclimated to hot weather running yet. Yet that didn’t stop me from running the first mile at a 7:25 pace. When the air feels like soup, that is much too fast for me.

It was all downhill from there. Well, not literally. I wish! I might have been able to sustain that pace then! Haha.

I ran the second mile in 7:41, then the third in 7:59 — a big slowdown between miles one and three, but still (barely!) under 8 minutes/mile. I ran the first half of the race in 24:03, pretty decent for a humid 5K. But then the wheels fell off, and I hit the wall. Who knew that was possible in a 10K? But all I kept thinking about was how sticky I was, and how much I just wanted to quit after the 5K point.

I ran mile four in 8:18, mile five in 8:31 and mile six in 8:37 (at least those splits were pretty close!) I banged out the final 0.2 in 2:42 and it felt like the longest 0.2 miles ever.

It was the most epic crash. I mean, look at these ugly positive splits:

racesplits

My average pace-per-mile in the second half of the race was 1 minute, 1 second slower than my pace-per-mile in the first half!

And my average pace of 8:15/mile was a whole three seconds slower than my average pace for the Rehoboth Marathon back in December. For a 10K.

Before I learned the half was canceled, I had dreams of going sub-1:40 for the first time in that distance. HA! I doubt I would have managed sub-1:50 today.

All in all, it was still a lovely race. We got some really great swag, including a Vooray backpack, which I will enjoy taking on camping and hiking trips.

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In lieu of a finisher’s medals, we also got cute carabiner keychains.

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We also got Jailbreak beer, and our choice of wood-fired pizza or doughnuts, after the race.

Lessons learned

So, if you are planning to race a 10K any time soon, remember this:

  1. If the weather is not ideal, adjust your expectations and your pace. I mean, running in the heat and humidity is hard for most runners. Take some pressure off yourself and know that you may not PR or even run a fast race (whatever that means to you.) That’s OK. Not every race is going to be a good one. Finish strong, not feeling like you have to barf.
  2. Respect the distance! Yes, a 10K is not a marathon or a half marathon or a 10 miler … doesn’t mean you don’t need to pace yourself. It’s still 6.2 miles and yes, you can still crash if you go out too fast.
  3. Remember to always run your own race. This is also hard for me. I lined up at the very front of the pack today and it probably encouraged me to start out faster just because I was surrounded by a bunch of gazelles. Don’t compare yourself to others, and focus on running YOUR best race.

I am running another 10K in two weeks — the Ellicott City 10K, a Rip It Events race. I am going to try to learn from my mistakes and run a smarter race then.

Are you interested in running the Ellicott City 5K or 10K? As many of you may know, downtown Ellicott City was hit by devastating floods for the second time in less than two years. Rip It is donating 50 percent of the money from race registrations received between now and race day to the Ellicott City Partnership Flood Relief Fund. This is a great way to come out and support local businesses that are struggling to get back on their feet yet again. Let me know if you are interested in running, and I will hook you up with a 10 percent discount! (Disclaimer: As a Rip It ambassador, I run this race and other Rip It races for free.)

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